CFP: On the iconography of Alcestis. When does afterlife really begin?

Art History Supplement, May 2015

Deadline for papers: March 15, 2015


Taking artistic depictions and visual representations of the myth of Alcestis as a starting point for the discussion, this issue of Art History Supplement wishes to attract submissions addressing the theme of afterlife. What is the afterlife in art history? And, how could we define it? Afterlife as a notion has been brought into academic art historical attention, as far as I am aware, with the work of Aby Warburg. His Mnemosyne project, the Nachleben der Antike or Afterlife of Antiquity, could be regarded as the distillate of his studies on the survival of antique myth as represented in the artistic production. A current bibliography on this topic spams almost over 550 pages, considering the complied Bibliographie zum Nachleben des antiken Mythos, by Bernhard Kreuz, Petra Aigner and Christine Harrauer (2014) Wien: Institut für Kulturgeschichte der Antike.

However, Antiquity is rather generic term, according to the post-Winckelmann thought. Nevertheless, when does an afterlife of a myth really begin in art history and under which artistic terms? It could be supported, to the best of my understanding, that the concept of afterlife in art history seems to be connected with the notion of transition of artistic forms and the survival of iconographies either from one era to another, or from context to another, or either from one means to another. While Antiquity is perceived as repository of artistic forms, from which iconographic elements are drawn to embody each time the intended meanings. Whereas, a quest for the iconographic prototypes of a depicted myth seems to be almost impossible.

In addition, from ancient Greek pottery and Pompeian wall painting to neoclassical and modern panting depictions, by Eugène Delacroix, Frederic Leighton, Jean Francois Pierre Peyron or Paul Cézanne, of the myth in question may vary in popularity over times and contextual use of marriage chastity, and even a plausible political reestablishment. For various depictions, see Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae and The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1990, while for a primary discussion on Alcestis and afterlife, see Sonia Mucznik (1999) Devotion and unfaithfulness: Alcestis and Phaedra in Roman art, Rome: G. Bretschneider and Niall W. Slater (2013) Euripides: Alcestis, London: Bloomsbury Academic, for instance.

Yet, could we actually speak of the afterlife of a certain myth or of literary and pictorial representations? Or the afterlife of an artwork? In the case of the latter, could contemporary art criticism and manifestations of visual culture be regarded as the afterlife of that certain work? For the latter, see, for instance, the poster for the theatrical performance “Alcestis Ascending” a rock-myth staged on 2013, written and directed by Seth Panitch. Posters, either as a form of advertisement – communication or just as a form of place and time of performance signification, could be considered as a metonymy of the play itself; theatrical photographic stills, as well.

Could, we, thus, define as art criticism the year one of the beginning of the work’s afterlife; since we see the translation of that artwork from a pictorial language to a literary one (and vice versa), used for its communication and diffusion? The year one of afterlife could well coincide with year one of its original production. Even a description or an ekprasis of this work constitutes an afterlife. In addition, the same pattern of thoughts could be applied to the survival of oral art histories through their transition into a second, recorded, orality or into a written condition.

The myth of Alcestis in visual context could be used to re-generate and formulate even more research queries. These methodological questions are also more than welcome, in the context of Art History Supplement.

Contributions from graduate students are strongly encouraged. Non-western perspectives are especially welcome.

Submissions should consist a minimum of 3000 words, a 100-150 word abstract, and a list of illustrations. Files should be submitted in English and in Microsoft WORD format. Each image should be sent as a separate file; jpeg or .tiff (min. 300 dpi). Please note that all necessary copyright documentation for all quoted material and / or all illustrations must be included in the submission package, as the publication round may be short. For more information, visit author’s guidelines and editorial procedures at


Cite this blog post
ArtHS Editor (2014, August 15). CFP: On the iconography of Alcestis. When does afterlife really begin? Art Histories Society. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from

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